Brand Loyalty is Alive and Well

It’s been said many times in many places: brand loyalty is dead. Especially on the web. With incredibly low costs and short consumer attention span, it’s easy to see why people jump to this conclusion. Yet brand loyalty is alive and kicking you just have to know where to look.

When companies provide a superior service, customers care. You can find evidence of brand loyalty in hundreds of companies operating in dozens of industries that affect millions of customers. In fact, even in technology and on the web, where prices can be most cutthroat and products can be hardest to differentiate, there are plenty of examples of brand loyalty. Techies just might not use the term brand loyalist, as much as they use the term fanboy.

Fanboyism in Gaming

Everyone is a gaming fanboy in one way or another. If you love Mario, Sonic or Master Chief, you’re a fanboy. If you hate Solid Snake, Donkey Kong or Max Payne, you’re also a fanboy. People become brand loyalists very easily in gaming. They fall in love with a character, whether it’s because of their little catch phrases (Its-a-me! Mario!), the way they look (Splinter Cells Sam Fisher is just cool), or the way the game is played. It’s these little things that endear an audience to a character or brand franchise, and it’s these things that create fanboys.

Go on any gaming blog or forum, and you’ll see militant brand loyalists who argue why the Xbox 360 is a better gaming platform than the Playstation 3 (We’ve got Master Chief and Left 4 Dead!), or why the Wii is a great games system (Super Smash Bros! Mario Kart!), or why it isn’t. This is brand loyalty at its core, and at its most antagonistic. On the surface, the game’s platforms are ultimately similar in cost (PS3 Slim = $299, Xbox 360 Elite = $299), and have ultimately the same games (at least 75% of all titles are multiplatform), yet that doesn’t stop the brand loyalists from arguing. The fights are about how you have to buy a 360 because of Halo, or how the Playstation 3s graphics blow the 360 out of the water, or how the Wii is the best because of its motion tracking. These arguments aren’t going to stop anytime soon, what with Microsofts Project Natal set to release during the holiday season, and with the Playstation 3s own motion controller coming out as well.

Tech Fanboys

I’m sure you’re already well aware of the biggest fanboys in tech: Apple. The empire that Steve Jobs built has created a veritable nation of dedicated brand loyalists. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are some easy ways to spot them). But Apple isn’t the only company. Google has begun to build their own following, with its search engine, Gmail, Chrome and the Android smartphone OS. Intel and AMD long had battles between brand loyalists, and both Nikon and Canon have passionate fan bases.

Each of these tech companies has amassed large followings not because they offer the lowest price. Or not even because they offer the best service or product. They build up brand loyalists because their marketers tell a story about their product. And about what they do. Apple talks about building beautiful, clean products that are easy to use and easy to appreciate. AMD caters to computer buffs interested in getting the most out of their processors (see: overclocking). Google is about simplicity and open source. Brand loyalty may be more difficult to obtain in the digital age, but it is absolutely possible.

I was an economics major in college. They told me that the consumer will eventually always find the lowest price, and that’s what drives competition. Frankly, that’s one of the greatest inventions of the internet the access to pricing of a multitude of products right at your fingertips. However, in a world of extreme complexity, a low price is never the whole story. Sure, if you produce thumbtacks and your five biggest competitors are also thumbtack producers, you might not be able to differentiate and build brand loyalists. But companies who develop different products have always been able to build brand loyalty from John Deere to Johnny Walker. Apple owners often pay 25% more for a computer with similar specifications because it looks better and their computer tells a story. People buy Harley Davidson motorcycles because it does the same thing.

If you know who Seth Godin is, none of this is news. Seth Godin is a marketer who I have always admired, and one who has built his life around creating and studying interesting marketing stories. A blogging master, New York Times Bestselling Author and the brains behind Squidoo, Seth’s one of the best reads out there. Any non-believers in brand loyalty should read Seth. He’s been writing about remarkability and loyalty for years.

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